CHAMONIX - ZERMATT CROSSING
11 DAYS - SELF-GUIDED
The Chamonix – Zermatt crossing is a must, a classic and a long-distance hike for mid-mountain walkers. This trek links two great capitals of the Alps, Chamonix Mont-Blanc in France and Zermatt in Switzerland, crossing from West to East a part of the Valaisan Alps.
The Mont-Blanc, the Grand Combin, the Matterhorn, the Weisshorn, the Mischabels, the Mont Rose and many others. Here are some great mountains that offer the ideal setting for a beautiful hike.
If the Haute Route by the glaciers is well known to mountaineers, hikers take a very different route. It is the version “by the paths”, which goes between 2000 and 3000m of altitude, in mid-mountains, on varied and non-glacial grounds.
It is a demanding hike, which requires a certain level of practice, as well as technical ease on all types of terrain. This program is more difficult than the Tour du Mont-Blanc. A conscientious preparation is therefore necessary and a guarantee of success!
Departure of the hike from the village of Montroc in the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc valley.
Day 1: Montroc – Trélechamp – Trient
The ridge of the “aiguillette des Posettes” is particularly esthetic and panoramic. The Mont-Blanc massif, its main summits and the Chamonix valley offer a breathtaking landscape! The mountain pastures of Posettes and Balme are the last ones in activity near Chamonix. The crossing of the French-Swiss border is done by a path on the side of the mountain, through the alpine pastures of Catogne. The village of Trient is our destination.
Approximate distance : 11,5km – Elevation gain: 1000 m / elevation loss: 1200 m
Day 2: Trient – Champex via Bovine Alpine Pastures
The day begins with a climb to the Col de La Forclaz. The trail then goes through a beautiful larch forest and reaches the alpine pastures of Bovine, which overlook the upper Rhone valley, located upstream from Lake Geneva in the Swiss Valais. One can also admire the massif of the teeth of the South as well as the counter forts of the Bernese Alps. Further east, the Pennine Alps (Valaisannes) welcome us with a representative of size, here is the Grand Combin massif. The “Bovine route” is used by farmers to guide their cattle through the mountains. The trail now descends to the Plan de l’Au and finally Champex le Lac.
Approximate distance : 15km – Elevation gain: 850 m / elevation loss: 1000 m
Day 3: Champex – Mille hut
From Champex-Lac, a pleasant descent through the forest, hillsides and small hamlets leads to the bottom of the Val d’Entremont and the village of Orsières located at the foot of the Grand St Bernard pass. Here are the Valaisan Alps! A long climb on the western side of the Val d’Entremont is necessary to reach the crests of the Mont Brûlé which allows us to admire one last time the summits located at the north-east of the Mont-Blanc range. The trail reaches the Mille hut perched at 2473m of altitude, where you will stay overnight.
Approximate distance : 13km – Elevation gain: 1700 m / elevation loss: 700 m
Day 4: Mille hut – Louvie hut
This is a long but easy stage, in beautiful open landscapes. From the Cabane de Mille overlooking the Val d’Entremont to the Cabane de Louvie, overlooking the Val de Bagnes. These two huts offer wonderful panoramas. A very pleasant path, crossing first to the Brunet hut, and then descending into the Val de Bagnes. From the village of Fionnay, the path goes up towards the Louvie hut and its magnificent lake in which the immense Corbassière glacier is reflected.
Approximate distance : 18km – Elevation gain: 1200 m / elevation loss: 1400 m
Day 5: Louvie hut – Prafleuri hut via the Louvie and Prafleuri passes
Two passes in the program for the day. First the Louvie pass (2921m), then the Prafleuri pass (2939m). The Grand Desert is waiting for you. Located between the two passes, the Grand Desert is a vast plateau made up by moraines and rocks that the glaciers have left here and there before returning to their summits. The atmosphere here is very mineral, punctuated by lakes, cairns and beacons that will guide your crossing. From the Prafleuri pass, the trail goes down to the eponymous hut, where you will spend the night.
Approximate distance : 14,5km – Elevation gain: 1050 m / elevation loss: 1150 m
Day 6: Prafleuri hut – La Grande Dixence dam – Evolène via Col de la Meina
Our itinerary prefers to avoid the pass of Riedmatten or the Pas de Chèvre. These two sections are both technical and aerial. Both of them can represent a major difficulty for all those who are not sure of their footing in the unstable rocky terrain and/or fear the climbing of high vertical ladders.
Our trail leaves the Grande Dixence dam and descends into the Hérémence valley to the place called “Motôt”, a point at 1905m. The path crosses the torrent of Merdéré and reaches the alpine pastures of Novèlé (2082m) much later. The crossing of the Meina pass (2702m) allows to switch to the Val d’Hérens. The descent from the pass reaches the very pretty hamlet of La Meina. From here, a chairlift will facilitate the descent to the village of Lannaz.
Approximate distance: 19 km – Elevation gain: 1050m / elevation loss: 1560m
Alternative : Prafleuri hut – Les Dix lake – Evolène
If you feel comfortable and you prefer to follow the classic route you can cross the Riedmatten pass (2854m).
Day 7: Evolène / La Sage – Zinal via Col de Thorens et Lac de Moiry
From La Sage in the Val d’Hérens, head towards Zinal. You will first pass by the Col de Torrent. The view of the Moiry lake dam with its amazing colors is wonderful. You will then plunge down to the lake by crossing the alpine pastures of Thorens. From the dam, the local shuttle service will take you from Moiry to Zinal where you will spend the night.
Approximate distance: 11 km – Elevation gain: 1200m / elevation loss: 700m
Day 8: Zinal – Gruben via Col de la Forcletta
The climb to the Col de La Forcletta is long and varied. A steep path in the forest leads to a long, pleasant balcony above the Val de Zinal, and then to a welcoming alpine pasture area on the final steep slope. A plunge into the Turtmanntal (Val Turtmann) is like a jump out of time. Inaccessible in winter, this is the wildest valley in the Valais. In the background you will glimpse the Augstbordpass, the pass you will cross the next day, as well as the Turtmann glacier surrounded by the Bishorn on one side and the Weisshorn on the other.
Approximate distance: 24 km – Elevation gain: 1500 m / elevation loss: 1350 m
Day 9: Gruben – St Niklaus – Zermatt
The ascent to the Augstbordpass (2892m) is long: forest, alpine meadows, grassy slopes, stones and rocks… This is the last difficulty of our journey. The passage of the pass offers a spectacular view. Here is the Val de Zermatt and the Mischabels massif. The descent goes in the valley under the pass until the intersection, marked 2095m. The path continues on the right, on the rather steep side of the Twära mountain, in direction of the suspended hamlet of Jungu (1954m). Here a small cable car takes us down to St-Niklaus. A train connection takes us to Täsch, and the next one to our final destination, Zermatt.
Approximate distance: 13 km – Elevation gain: 1100m / elevation loss: 1000m
Day 10: Zermatt – Fluhalp hut
Experience the romance of an overnight stay in an alpine hut, with unforgettable sunrises and sunsets, A half-day hike will lead you to the idyllic setting of the Fluhalp hut, where you will spend the night.
Approximate distance: 8,6 km – Elevation gain: 1200m / elevation loss: 200m
Day 11: Fluhalp hut – Gornegrat – Zermatt
After a night at 2606m, hike up to the Gornegrat. At 3090m, you’ll enjoy a 360° view and a breathtaking panorama of the Mont Rose massif in the distance, the Pointe Dufour (4624m) Switzerland’s highest mountain, and 29 other peaks over 4000m. Finish your 11-day adventure with a ride aboard the highest rack railway in Europe on your way down to Zermatt.
Approximate distance: 9 km – Elevation gain: 970m / elevation loss: 350m
Note: the itinerary, distances and altitudes may vary slightly for many reasons beyond our control, including weather and terrain conditions.
Please also be aware that self-guided trek involves your own responsibility for the route you choose and the choices you make on the trails. We will provide you with a roadbook, map and GPX tracks but you will be hiking every day on your own and we cannot be responsible for the decision and events that may occur during your hike.
About the Chamonix-Zermatt crossing
A technical path is a trail with particularly uneven terrain and a very heterogeneous surface (tread, all types of terrain). The path is therefore less “rolling”, more irregular, and requires more attention and caution from the hiker.
Some of these technical passages can cause, when the ground requires it:
- The crossing of permanent installations (wired handrails, ladders, footbridges…)
- The use of technical equipment (use of a rope to protect a progression, use of crampons on hard snow)
- To be able to demonstrate ease of movement and technical skills (where and how to place one’s feet in order to progress with maximum safety)
- The use of knowledge and a technical skills based on years of experience (being able to adopt the best behavior and make the best decision)
The technicality of a path can be represented on the entire itinerary or only a portion of it. Its crossing requires a more sustained effort of concentration. In fact, the energy spent on the expenditure linked to the physical and psychological effort is more important. This has an impact on the time needed to complete the route and should be taken into account when preparing the trip. Of course, the same applies to recovery time.
All technical paths can be crossed, as long as you are calm, analytical, and methodical. Nothing is impossible as long as you have been expecting it, preparing it and now that you are taking action!
When in doubt, call on a professional who can guide you in the choices and decisions to be made. This is by far the best way to go!
This comes down to defining what an expert is!
He is the one who knows his practice very well and who can attest to his skills. Trained, knowledgeable, already experienced in some significant experiments, his objective is to perfect his art in practice by multiplying the experiments as often as possible.
If you define yourself as such, then don’t hesitate to consult all our programs that mention the expert level.
When in doubt, call in a professional!
These are two hiking itineraries of several days each, on mountain ranges subject to the same constraints and dynamics. The mountain environment presents the same characteristics (ecosystem, weather/climate, relief and landscapes…). These two hikes are therefore as beautiful as each other, however, the Chamonix – Zermatt is more difficult than the Tour du Mont-Blanc, because :
- The very large number of people on the TMB has encouraged the formation of a wider trail. The path is much more “rolling”, convenient and “smoothed” by the passage of hikers, mountain bikers, pack animals). Walking is therefore easier on the TMB trails.
- The Chamonix-Zermatt trails cross passes that are higher in altitude. The physical effort is therefore more demanding and the climatic constraints potentially more severe.
- The Chamonix – Zermatt itinerary presents stages or portions of stages that are more technical (the crossing of the Grand Desert for example). Overall, the trails are narrower, and there are more exposed passages that require more physical and psychological effort.
- The Chamonix – Zermatt program offers a much greater daily vertical drop and total distance covered. The management of the effort and the recovery time requires more experience.
In fact, one must know one’s own aptitudes (to know one’s level as well as one’s limits…) and always prepare one’s hike well (to know one’s itinerary and to have the appropriate equipment).
Practice makes perfect! 💪
By making day trips that offer an equivalent or more demanding level of difficulty. By multiplying experiences that reinforce our skills and abilities (diversifying practice environments and modes of execution, forcing our talent in order to increase our level of practice and technicality), by promoting the acquisition of new skills (map reading, navigation with the compass or GPS for example).